The site of Audleys Wood is recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as ‘Oddele’.
This painting of the house is from a larger work by Hesketh Hubbard (1892-1957) It was paid for by a Brewery staff subscription and presented to Eric Simonds in January 1952 by Capt A.S Drew, to celebrate his 50 years service at the brewery.
Just South of Basingstoke, Audleys Wood was probably designed by Matthew Wyatt of Weston Patrick for Thomas & Rachel Pain who had purchased the land from the Garrett family in 1877. He had first leased Pensdell Farm from them in 1872. Thomas was a Magistrate, twice Mayor of Salisbury and a Director of Tattersall’s in Knightsbridge. They moved in about 1880, but he died in September 1885 and the house was advertised for sale in December as comprising: 15 bedrooms, 4 reception rooms, billiard room, 2 entrance lodges, farm house and buildings with 200 acres, for £17,000. However our family summary of the Deeds seem to indicate that the Simonds family was already buying his mortgages and an interest in Pensdell Farm from 1883.
The 1881 census shows the Pain family in residence, with 10 servants in what was then recorded as Audleys House. Whilst 1891 shows the family of Frederick Saville from Exeter, also with 10 servants.
The deeds however seem to show it sold by Thomas Pain on May 4th 1887 to William Bradshaw and his wife Elizabeth and at this time the property was extended. [Not to be confused with Sir George Bradshaw of Railway Guide fame who died in Norway in 1853] In 1889 William’s wife Elizabeth was killed in a hideous runaway horse accident – she was taken into The Hatch pub on the A30 East of Basingstoke then home, where she died. There is a press cutting with the sad details HERE.
William moved out, and in January 1891 rented the house to The Rev Frederick & Mrs Sophia Stewart [or Saville?] of Bournemouth for a year. William remarried in 1892. Again, the deeds show that it was bought in August 1900 by Louis de Luze Simonds (1852-1916) probably funded by his childless uncle HA Simonds as he promptly mortgaged it. Henry Adolphus Simonds (1885-1904), a sportsman and Brewer moved in initially from his fine Georgian House, Red Rice, Andover. Shooting was his first love and both Red Rice and Audleys Wood, where he held shooting rights to several neighbouring farms, provided ample sport.
When Henry Simonds moved in, they again modernised, apparently extending the Conservatory to create a ballroom with a musician’s gallery. In 1910 they installed one of the very first electric lighting systems in Hampshire, that was powered by its own generator. These are the original installation drawings, showing that there was just one light bulb in most of the main rooms! On 13th January 1894 the local paper reported that ‘The ballroom was lit by electric light’ for the annual ball, followed a week later by ‘The Annual Housekeeper’s ball’ each for about 150 guests. Though it is not clear if this was just for the festivities.
It is a grand Victorian mansion in the Gothic Rennaissance style, with features like the oak panelling in the family dining room salvaged from earlier buildings. There was often more than one family living there. Henry Simonds’ wife Emily [Boulger] died in 1897 and they had no children. So, in 1900 his nephew Louis de Luze Simonds (1852-1916) with his wife Mary and 5 children joined him. They left ‘The Point’ on Bath Road, Reading, where the ‘East Wing’ on the right of this image had recently been built, to make room for his growing family.
The Point, Bath Road, Reading. Now a hotel, which was in walking distance from The Brewery.
Louis then travelled to the Reading Brewery daily by train from Basingstoke.
The Coat of Arms of Louis de Luze Simonds is displayed on a stained glass window in the lobby;
The house was used extensively for entertaining family & friends, with a huge Annual Ball & regular shooting parties.
The North Western Gate Lodge was demolished in about 1970 to make way for the M3 which opened nearby in 1971.
Click below to read recollections by the local Women’s Institute, written in 1965.
In February 1907 it was the venue for a family wedding, Louise Simonds (1889-1934) to Charles Francis Hare (1881-1928). This is the conservatory, with their wedding gifts on display.
Following the death of his mother Mary in 1930, Eric Simonds failed to find a buyer, so felt obliged to move in with his wife and 3 children.
The Audleys Wood Estate had always included Pensdell Farm and the surrounding woodlands, altogether a property of some 300 acres.
The vastly greater adjacent estate, Hackwood Park, across the Alton road, was bought in 1935 by Viscount Camrose, the Editor-Proprietor of the Daily Telegraph from Lord Bolton, who had long been an absentee landlord, with the house let, primarily to Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary, and subsequently to his widow then later to other short-term tenants. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, it became apparent that Hackwood was to be requisitioned as a Canadian Army Hospital, and in 1940, Lord Camrose then took a furnished tenancy of Audleys Wood for the duration, and Eric Simonds and his wife moved to a much smaller and more manageable house, Abbey Croft in Mortimer, which was also nearer to the Reading Brewery.
During the war years, Audleys Wood was visited by many great statesmen, journalists and politicians of the day who were the friends of the Camrose family. In the autumn of 1945, both families returned to their respective homes. In 1950 after five years back in his old family home, Eric Simonds decided that Audleys Wood was altogether too large, costly and unmanageable in the context of post-war Britain for just himself and his wife, so it was put up for sale initially complete and later in about 9 lots. .
In the same year, Lord Camrose bought parts, and incorporated Pensdell Farm and the woodlands into the Hackwood estate. The house, gardens and adjacent farm buildings then went to Hampshire County Council, who ran it as an Old Folks Home, with a home and later workshops for the disabled in the old stable block, for 35 years.
This plan is taken from the 1950 auction catalogue
The family moved to Ashe House, a beautiful [now listed] house in Overton, where Eric Simonds was taken ill & died in 1953.
This story is based on notes by Kenneth FitzGerald Simonds (1920-2006) who was brought up there, with the early Simonds ownership updated following the discovery of the list of deeds.
In 2018 these 2 documents from the original file of family Deeds were discovered in the family archives. They give a more detailed insight into the house’s timeline and they turned some of our family ‘folklore’ about the house on its head:
Correspondence between FA Simonds and his brother Lord Gavin Simonds
Links: Victoria County entry: